VPP makes its mark at JSC

JSC is gearing up for the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) audit, which is scheduled for the week of Oct. 31. During this audit OSHA will be expected to interview employees, inspect the facility and look at JSC’s safety and health documentation. No need to worry, there is an abundance of information on the Safety and Health website, and safety and health personnel will work with each directorate to help get the center prepared.

“The center is proud of how everyone at JSC accepts personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their co-workers,” said Connie Pritchard, Safety & Test Operations Division. “JSC has been designated as a VPP “STAR” site since 1999. The “STAR” is the highest rating presented by OSHA to a worksite.”VPP recognizes employers and workers in private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health programs and maintained injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) averages.

Employers under VPP proactively prevent fatalities, injuries and illness by focusing on four major areas: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and employee involvement. VPP also provides excellent networking opportunities to benchmark with other industry to share innovative ideas and practices on how to maintain a safe work environment.

“VPP has been the catalyst for a variety of improvements that have brought us where we are today with respect to preventing injuries,” said David Lloyd, chief, Safety & Test Operations Division. “The unique JSC lockout/tag out process, the close call process and virtually all the communication efforts from JSAT are all examples of VPP’s influence. Even the latest efforts we’ve pursued to improve safety culture, facility risk assessment, safety performance evaluation have roots in the VPP philosophy.”

Four major areas of VPP

Hazard prevention and control - One example is the lockout/tag out procedures that we have in place when working on electrical panels. The process has reduced the number of electrical injuries at the center by ensuring the electrical current has been disabled. JSC has applied a unique process for standardizing the lock devices and assessing all organizations for compliance to the Center process.

Worksite analysis - This is the quarterly inspection that is done of each work area and then the documentation of the inspection into the Building Inspection Tracking System (BITS). The BITS system is a good reminder that inspections are due and also a great tracking device.

Training - This includes hazard communication training and the annual building evacuation drills that all employees must have. And it also includes specialized training that is provided for unique activities in laboratories and test areas. It’s important that all required safety and health training is tracked in SATERN or records are readily available from your company.

Management commitment and employee involvement - An example is the success of the JSC Safety Action Team (JSAT), an employee-led safety committee, and the outstanding participation seen at venues such as the Health, Safety, and Environmental Fair that took place on April 27. JSC is obligated to demonstrate how management supports employee safety and health, and employees are encouraged to participate in meaningful opportunities to prevent mishaps. One key tool JSC uses is the Close Call process, which serves as a communication system to alert management of potentially unsafe events or conditions.

“There is a common misperception that VPP is costly," Lloyd said. "Plain and simple, it’s not. Many of the requirements for VPP are firmly integrated in NASA’s policy, so the vast majority of VPP requirements are not new. The National Safety Council estimates that each lost-time injury costs an employer over $40,000 in employee treatment, recovery, lost labor, and workplace corrective actions. With that in mind, we’ve estimated that the first 10 years of JSC’s efforts supporting VPP were less than one sixth the cost of the benefits associated with injury prevention."

At a recent Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association (VPPPA) Conference, OSHA presented JSC with the VPP “Star Among Stars” Award. To qualify for this award, a site must have Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR) and Days Away/Restricted/ Transferred Case Incidence Rate (DART) for the prior year, which is at least 50 percent below BLS national industry averages per North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code. JSC accomplished this achievement through the diligence of JSC team members.

“We are proud of JSC employees for making this a safe place to work,” Pritchard said.

Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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